Willing to Change – Frankie Bakirtzis

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Let’s not bury the lead.  In 2023 Frankie Bakirtzis was the number one personal producer at USHEALTH Advisors. It’s no small feat, in fact, it’s a gargantuan accomplishment. In 365 days Frankie produced more than $4 million in individual health insurance applications. If that wasn’t enough, in only two-and-a-half years, Frankie figured out how to scale to the top of the mountain at the company and produce more than $10 million in sales since the day he contracted with USHA.

All of this made possible by one decision, the hardest decision many of us face, the decision to change. Change is inevitable, growth is optional. So if change is destined, and if you take control of that change, you can change your destiny.

“If I trust in something, I can do it,” says Frankie. The first thing Frankie had to trust in was himself and this didn’t come easy. Before he walked in the door at USHEALTH Advisors, and for too many years, Frankie was placing a losing bet in his life, again and again and again.

The bet Frankie made was he could do anything and everything to run away from his demons. He built a fortress around his heart and his past, one with seemingly insurmountable high walls made out of alcohol, drugs and gambling.

A fortress of addiction.

So many times the path of life is laid out this way. How can you know the sweet taste of freedom, of true joy, see the light and feel the warmth of abundance, until you have lived in the cold prison of darkness?

For Frankie the foundation of all of it began early in life, hard times forced upon him and his family by circumstance.

“I grew up in West Orange, New Jersey in a very business oriented household,” says Frankie. “My family came here from Greece. My dad was kind of the miracle American boy. He was the first one born here in the states, in the sixties, and his parents were already in their fifties. They had my dad and he was 15, or 20 years younger than all of his siblings. My dad lost his own father when my dad was only 18. My dad had to give up his college football dream and take over the family business – a hot dog stand. He was able to scale the hot dog stand from a hot dog stand to a diner to a supermarket.”

“And that was the journey of my early childhood… my  dad. It was always scaling the family business and mom was always helping build the family and also build the businesses. And when dad was 37 and I was 13, all of a sudden he was diagnosed with  kidney disease, both of his kidneys failed, and he was about three years too late on the wait list. But my ex-aunt, my dad’s brother’s ex-wife, got tested with one of the last minute tests. It became a miracle story because she was a match. My dad got the kidney and had another chance at life. But we faced a lot of adversity during that time. We went from owning a business to owning nothing, and that’s when it was I who had to really step up to the plate, not because I was old enough to take care of the family from a business standpoint, but just keep the house in order with dad being ill and all of the things that were thrown at us, I needed to put my big boy pants on pretty early.”

“To cope with it all I really dove into sports. I found a lot of success and was always very regimented in school. I did well in school and ultimately went to college on a scholarship, but them got super complacent in college. I started to realize I was always looking for my dad’s attention. And once I felt like I either achieved that or it wasn’t what I wanted to be, I started acting out.”

“I settled for not going to the NFL and I felt I had hit my ceiling, or others told me I had,” says Frankie. “I let other people’s voices dictate my own belief in myself, which I have since been able to look back on and think, yeah, that’s why I didn’t try. I mean solely because I didn’t have the belief and without belief, there’s no trust.”

“And once I got comfortable, I got really comfortable and started making some bad decisions that led me down a path that I was dependent upon. Specifically a really, really strong gambling addiction and it to cope with that addiction, I turned even more,  including drugs and alcohol. My whole identity had been submerged in sports and especially football, and once I gave up football I was lost. So I was finding myself in gambling, alcohol and drugs, but losing myself at the same time and all of this was really, really hard to walk away from.”

Frankie says gambling especially is a tough addiction to deal with because it’s a silent killer.

“Personally, I think gambling is going to have even more dramatic effects on our society than alcohol will a decade from now. Because it is one of the addictions you can’t see, you can’t smell, you really can’t notice it. And because of that it is so dangerous. You could be sick and suffering and no one knows and no one will know. Whereas with most addictions you can see the physical consequence, gambling is totally an emotional disorder. So it’s not that every person that gambles is going to have a gambling addiction, but I think with the mental state of our country and emotional disorders being more prevalent, gambling is scary.”

For Frankie it was more than several years of the same vicious cycle of gambling, drugs and alcohol until he fortunately found an outlet, and locked himself away from all the vices that were attempting to squeeze the life out of his future.

“At age 24, is when I really put in the effort to get sober,” says Frankie. “I had to give up all my friends, all the places I went to and all the things I used to do. And I basically locked myself in LA Fitness. For weeks I would be there for 16-hours-a-day, working out, reading, showering, sauna, spa, basketball – just because I didn’t trust myself anywhere else. That was back in 2018, and I really committed to a program.”

But the program was just the beginning. Through all his addictions, Frankie had been masking the one thing he craved, the one every human being craves the most, to feel that you have value, you are appreciated, to believe that you matter. And so it wasn’t just a program of sobriety that brought Frankie back to center… he needed more.

What Frankie had been seeking, was love.

“I  found a program and a really good group of guys that just loved me for who I was,” says Frankie. “They didn’t judge anything I’ve done and just loved on me. And it was that taste of love that I received that changed my life because it was there in abundance. I learned about their own experiences of where they came from. I knew some of them personally from when they were in the throws of their addictions. So to see them change, I knew it was possible, I knew it was real. So I just had a strong element of trust in the program. That was such a critical lesson for me at the age of 24, because it shifted my perspective on everything going forward because it was so clear to me that if I trust something, I can do it.”

“And if I don’t trust it, I can’t. So for my whole life, I measured my actions, I measured my worth, I measured who I am based off of what I do. And I always struggled because it was this thought process that if you mess up, you’re a bad person, if you do good, you’re a good person. And it just led me down a really dark path because I just was led by shame and guilt. So experiencing love the way I did changed my ability to love other people – but before I could do that – I had to love myself first and foremost.”

Love, support and a discovery of who Frankie could be as a human being, what he had to offer, what worth he could bring to the world. Right before he made the decision to get sober, Frankie says he read something that turned him around. It’s been said that one book, one chapter, one sentence, one word can change a life.

“Right before I got sober, I was in a psychiatric unit for three weeks just because I was so unstable. I needed severe medical attention. And that was one of the big reasons I didn’t trust myself anywhere else other than LA Fitness. And then I read a book by Francis Chen, called Crazy Love, and a line in the book I read then shaped the trajectory of my life from that moment on – people will judge what you’ve done, but God caress about who you can become. It was just too close to my own story to not take it for what it was because I would say it’s superstition, or it’s just chance or whatever the case was that it was too close to home to not pursue that message, that path. So I was like, alright, I just read this book. I just got exposed to these things.”

Around the same time Frankie also met a popular pastor at the gym and joined a church about five miles from where he grew up. Faith was about to play its hand, and better than any hand Frankie had ever bet.

“So I get planted in this church, which is where I meet Andrea, who would become my wife, and a year into my recovery, I’m into my new faith, which we’re born again Christians. I grew up Greek Orthodox and would go to service and not even know the language. So I certainly didn’t have a relationship with a higher power. It was more of a tradition than a practice or relationship.”

All was going well until a scandal rocked the church that hurt both Frankie and his wife to their core since they had put a lot of trust in their pastor and his wife.

“It was a very public scandal and it got pretty nasty and we were very much a transplant church, so our whole community up and went back to where they’re from. So we were left alone during Covid to ourselves with no one. It’s just like, wait, we’re married a year and this marriage thing is really hard and now we’re all alone.”

“I felt like I finally built trust with loved ones again because the pastor and I were very close. And here it is and it’s like, oh, Frankie’s still caught up in the same old story, but now it’s got a Christian spin to it. I was so hurt by it that I couldn’t see it for what it was and my wife and I decided we needed to hit a reset on our own marriage. It had such an impact on us because we were so close to the pastor and his wife that we were basically learning how to be a married couple alongside of them. But I felt like we were just molding into who we were around them, rather than coming together and figuring out on who we are.”

Frankie and his wife decided to head south, move to Bluffton, South Carolina rent a house, and hit the reset button to get away from distractions. They were both wrapping up school and because of Covid, could do it virtually. But while figuring out who they were and what their marriage was all about, a few guys Frankie met on the golf course started telling him that he should move to Nashville, that’s where they said he and Andrea could build a better life.

“We just had this unwavering pull to lift this electric fence that had been around the northeast for my family and my wife’s family since they migrated to the states. We love and respect our families, but we can’t live with them and make decisions with them anymore.”

A month later we’re making the 11-hour drive with our two dogs down to Tennessee. And we knew on the car ride to Tennessee, without even ever visiting Nashville, that we were moving here because of this magnetic pull. Neither of us had jobs. And seven days later after moving down here I walk into a USHEALTH Advisors office and it was kind of off to the races.”

That’s an understatement.

In no time at all “Frankie B”, as he is known, was making a name for himself at USHA, because of his exemplary production as a new insurance agent. He says he credits so much of his success to his team of leaders, but one in particular, another rising star at USHA, Ben Fredricks.

“Meeting Ben and being able to talk to Ben was the biggest injection of my belief in this company. I was able get to know Ben and his belief and confidence rubbed off on me and it made the transition for me really easy. That’s where it wasn’t blind faith for very long, because Ben was able to instill that in me and I was able to latch onto it and find my way pretty quickly.”

So besides Ben’s support, what everyone wants to know is what’s Frankie B’s secret?

“This is one of the most frustrating things for most people,” explains Frankie, “because when I explain it, I always use the concept of a car and driving. We mindlessly get in our car every single day and trust that that it is going to get us to work safely. And it was that same level of faith and trust in this company. I had faith and belief in our products, in our systems that freed me to do what I do on a day-to-day basis, where I have an overwhelming amount of trust in not just what we’re doing, but how we’re doing it and it will get me where I want to go. I don’t want to say it’s easy, it does take a lot of hard work, but with that as the core, it is the secret. It truly is the secret, trust and belief.”

“And it has to be unwavering. I know when I have our client on the phone, I can’t get in the way of helping them. And because I have that belief that they’re our client, it helps me not get in the way because I don’t have to push, I don’t have to press, I don’t have to convince, I just have to show. I’m not going to pressure you. I’m not going to say we have to do this now, the clients feel that relief and belief on the phone and that makes it easy for me.”

Frankie says it’s also about investing in your business and in yourself. Something he learned from his dad, the man who’s attention he always craved. Frankie says his dad set the example for him to follow.

“It’s scale,” says Frankie. “I think that’s where I can go back in time and credit my whole history to this concept. Whether it’s watching my dad scale businesses, growing up and seeing the suffering, see the good times and the bad times, and trust in the process and continue to show up and be process oriented. It doesn’t matter what the results look like, the results are going to be what they’re intended to look like as long as you keep doing what you’re supposed to do. So I’ve been super process-driven from a young age, but then also the trust and belief gave me the confidence in being very free in my investment because I don’t fear that the money’s not going to come back, or I’m not going to profit, or I’m not going to turn it into something because of that unwavering trust that it’s going to work out.”

“For nearly the first two years at USHA, everything I made went back into the business. That was partially a call of obedience because still being new in my recovery, I knew I needed to silence my ego. It was almost like a self-suffering strategy because I didn’t want to get rich quick because I didn’t trust I could handle it. And then two, just wanting to scale at the right pace and doing it the right way, were the two biggest decisions. But now, I definitely encourage any agent to at least make 50% reinvestment into your business, between assistance from your leaders, more marketing and all of the systems we use.”

Systems and processes. Not only in business, but in personal life as well. Frankie and his wife Andrea decided to create a family and have a daughter now.

“We actually have four children, three in heaven because of miscarriages,” says Frankie, “and we have our beautiful one-and-a-half year-old daughter, Veronica, who we call Ronnie. She is a light in our lives that’s for sure.”

To be a light is what Frankie says he wants to be for others, to show the way and to prove that anything is possible, despite your past.

“I would say life is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Frankie. “So when there’s a bump in the road, embrace it, accept it, and rely on the people around you to get past it. Find a way to get over that bump, or obstacle or even mountain, like I had to climb. Because on the other end of that is the race that you were given to run. I would say that is something that I’m speaking to myself and wish I learned at a much earlier point in life.”

“I feel like one of my biggest strongholds was the realization that things happen, but it’s the emotional reaction we have that’s irrational and then you totally lose sight of what the big picture is and what’s going on and what truly needs attention. That reactive state is what keeps us stuck right in front of that mountain which we potentially could climb, but never get over.”

Never get over that is, unless you’re like Frankie, and willing to change.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Your Storyteller,
Mark Brodinsky

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